Monday, March 9, 2015

My Latest Shopping Trips- And Bulk Buys

You know those times when you are just so uninspired to cook anything, because it feels like everything you want to make, you're missing those ingredients?
That's how my house was a little bit ago. Not that we were short on food by a long shot- we still had a pretty fully stocked pantry, etc... and if push came to shove, we would be able to last on just that food... but I was getting bored and frustrated because I didn't have what I wanted in the house!
So I knew I'd be doing a big shopping trip.

When I know a large shopping is needed, I try to hit up the cheapest stores. Because while I know that a big shopping trip means as high bill is inevitable, I still wanted my high bill to be manageably high and not super, disgustingly high.

So, despite my reservations about the O store (that I've posted about before), full of gimmicks and tricks, I decided to head there again. With full awareness of how the store runs, taking along my calculator and doing unit price comparisons for everything! Because despite my issues with certain things in the store, I do know that other things are really great prices, and if you shop there smartly, you really can save a lot there.

Before I went to the O store, I also checked out another store just up the street from the O store, lets call it the S store, which was also purported to have really great prices, especially on meat and chicken.

So, the S store. To be honest, I didn't look at everything there- just glanced at a few main things there. The chicken was ok priced, nothing special. Same with the fish and beef. The only special things there were turkey frames, behind sold for 76 cents a pound. For being mostly bones, some might say this is too high of a price, but to be honest, I really really really love the taste of turkey, and turkey is expensive round these parts. so to be able to make turkey soup for just 76 cents a pound- totally worth it. And, contrary to popular belief, there actually is quite a bit of meat on those bones, if you're willing to pick through the bones. Which I am. So I stocked up, and bought about 14 lbs.
I also bought 5 lbs of chicken feet- perfect for making delicious stock. While they weren't super cheap at $1.94 per pound, they're not easy to find, so I decided to buy some.

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I also found a large bottle of synthetic vinegar there for $1.97 for 4.25 quarts, a great deal.

When I went to the O store, I went with my eyes open and with a big understanding that not everything that seems cheap actually is cheap.

The biggest thing I noticed is that many times, the packages labeled economy size, and larger... were actually more expensive per pound or per item than the smaller individual packages. By a significant amount.

Here's what I bought:

Chocolate. In bulk. Kind of.

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I like eating chocolate, and I knew I'd be making my homemade chocolates, and I like using chocolate chips in baking, so I figured that I'd buy the "economy size" package of chocolate chips. So I nearly bought a few bags of that... and then I found chocolate bars on sale for 54 cents a piece, working out to $2.46 per pound. That's the lowest price I can ever remember seeing for chocolate- even the bulk chocolate from the store where I buy bulk baked goods sells chocolate for $3.89 per pound- and I nearly bought that in bulk from them, since the going rate for chocolate round these parts is $5.20-$6.50 per pound. So seeing those chocolate bars at 54 cents a piece, much cheaper than the economy chocolate chips? I bought 29 bars- $15.66 total.
My only regret is I didn't buy enough- after all my chocolate making, I only have 9 bars left, and the sale is over... So I might be buying that chocolate in bulk after all...

I also had some gift baskets I was putting together, so I bought some other junk that I don't usually buy- pretzels for $1.40, a few packages of wafers for 28 cents each, a few puffed corn snacks for 45 cents each, and a few packages of halva- two large blocks for $2.50 each and a few small bars for 35 cents each.

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Another area where economy size packaging was misleading- sesame seeds. I needed a bunch for a few different recipes I was making (crackers, candies, etc...) so I was trying to get them as cheaply as possible. The economy size packaging- the one pound packages- were about 25% more than the half pound packages. So I bought 7 half pound packages. at $1.45 each.

I also bought poppy seeds- not sure if they were cheaper than other places, but I just needed a little- I bought 2 3.5 oz packages for $1.11 each.

I got 4 packages of powdered sugar for 28 cents per 3.5 oz package, which is half as cheap as the 54 cents per package I usually see- also for my homemade chocolates.

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Something else on my shopping list when I went to the O store was chickpeas. I usually find them in my grocery store for $1.55-$1.80, and if I look really hard and go to a couple of stores, I can sometimes find them for $1.29 per pound. So I was really, really, really excited to see chickpeas on sale at the O store for 75 cents a pound. I ended up buying 25 lbs! 
I got 6 lbs of red lentils for $1.19 per pound (regular price here is $1.29-$1.55 per pound I think) and 6 lbs of green lentils for the same price. I also got 6 lbs of popcorn, again for $1.19 per pound, again with a similar regular price.
I bought 5 lbs of cornmeal at $1.01 per pound- the usual price here is $1.53 per pound or more. And I got 20 lbs of white rice at 38 cents per pound- the regular price I can usually find it for at the cheap store (R store) is 63 cents per pound, and even more expensive at other stores. I bought 11 lbs of risotto rice for $1 per pound, the same price I usually buy it for at the R store, but since I was at the O store anyhow and needed some, I decided to not make another trip to the R store (every time you enter a grocery store, you end up spending more than you'd originally planned- a rule in shopping, as well as saving money and time on transportation costs).
I bought 2 packages of rice cellophane noodles for $1.11 each- R store price is $1.40 each.

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I hadn't planned on buying coffee or tea, but the prices were really good. Again, when smaller packaging ends up being cheaper. At the R store, usually I can buy instant coffee for $5.71 for 7 ounces. The same brand was being sold for 82 cents for a little 1.75 oz can, which seemed cheap, but I wasn't sure. So I did price comparing, and saw that the large packaging is generally is sold for about $13 per pound, and these were $7.53 per pound! What a difference! I bought 12 packages, for a total of $9.94 for 1.32 lbs.

The tea confused me- while I know how to price compare and figure out cost per pound, I don't always know the exact size of the packaging I usually buy is... Take this tea for example. While in the store, I didn't know how many came in the regular packaging, and how much I paid for them- but I just checked now- 75 tea bags for $3.11, working out to 4.2 cents per tea bag. The ones in the O store were packages of 25 tea bags for 95 cents, which works out to 3.8 cents per tea bag. I bought 6 packages (150 tea bags total) for $5.71.

I also bought 2 packages of wings- 5.13 lbs total, for $1.29 per pound- not a great price for wings, just about average- but I didn't see any cheap chicken there and we were running short, so I got a little bit- $6.60.

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The last few things I got were as following:
4 giant packages of rice cakes- $2.02 per really large package, containing 8 smaller packages within, so 25 cents per little package. At the R store, it costs $3.42 for a smaller package, containing 6 smaller packages within, so 57 cents per little package, though occasionally I can find them on sale for $2.85 so 48 cents per small package. (At the local mom and pop's store, rice cakes generally are $2.85 for 3 packages, so 95 cents per package.) Definitely a good deal at the O store for these!

I also bought 3 loaves of gluten free bread and 1 5 pack of gluten free pita for $1.40 each. These aren't as tasty or as large as the packaged gluten free bread that had been on sale at the R store for $1.40 each as well, but the R store ended their sale and now theirs are over $5.70 per loaf, so I won't be buying those anymore. But to be honest, I really didn't like how this company's bread and pitas tasted (though my kids did) so I don't know if I'll be buying it again- also because it's less healthy than what I can make at home...

I bought a package of muffin liners for $1.40, and an "economy pack" size package of diapers for $12.25... and then realized when I got home that I actually was paying a few cents more per diaper in the "economy pack" size than the regular diaper packaging...

Last but not least, I bought a package of canned asparagus for $2.25 as a treat for myself and Lee, my shopping buddy. I know, weird treat, but we both liked it.

Total for the shopping trip?

So, as I said, definitely not super low. Definitely on the higher end. But I went with the awareness that there were definitely tricks going on there, and I had to price compare very, very, very carefully, and if so, I'd be able to walk away with amazing deals. And I did. And I only fell for 1 trick- the "economy pack" diapers- everything else I bought non economy pack sized.

I think I did pretty well for this shop.

And the biggest lesson for myself?

Be aware of how large the packaging of the items you usually buy are. It was not knowing that for the diapers and the tea that stumped me. And also, if I don't know beforehand, googling the item from my smartphone, so I can see what their standard packaging size generally is, if I don't remember... will help me not fall for the "economy pack" trick. As I said, nearly no economy pack actually was economical (the rice cakes were the only exceptions). It's only economical for the company selling the items, since they both save on packaging and make more of a profit by people fooled into thinking its cheaper since it says "economy package" on the label.

And of course... since this shop was actually 12 days ago... and it took me this long to just type it up... I have another more recent shopping trip to share with you... just as soon as I write it up...

Economy size/value packs. Do you actually ever find them cheaper? What things do you find economy packs to be cheaper for, what the same price, and what do you actually find smaller packaging to be cheaper for?
Find any good deals lately?
When you need to do a big shopping trip, do you travel further to get the best deals, or do you go closer or where it is most convenient to get your shopping home from there?


  1. I was at the O store near us last week, and I almost fell for the diaper "economy" pack, but since I'm generally happy with either Huggies or the local pharmacy chain brand, and I did remember how many are in the pack, I realised it wasn't as economical as it sounded.

    1. pharmacy chain brand FTW. price seems to be dipping lower than the off-brand i usually buy. now i only need to make sure i don't hate them...

  2. The last time I bought an economy pack of diapers I did it by price/diaper - because ultimately that's the price that matters. As a general rule, an economy pack is slightly less than double the number as a regular pack. The question is really the price/unit.

  3. Popcorn is pretty cheap at one super grocery store here on the W Coast where you can get 20# for about $10!

  4. I save so much by buying in bulk. In the winter we tend to use items such as beans, whole grain flour and pasta. In the summer, it is definitely sugar we use the most. Knowing this, it saves a lot to get it in bulk.


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